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The first dwellers, reindeer hunters, wandered into our lands in the 10th and 9th millenium B.C. Archaeologists, historians, geographers and linguists believe Merkys river basin to be one of the first sites to be inhabited in Lithuania, it dates back to the Paleolithic Period (the early Stone Age). Hunting reindeer was the main source of sustenance for the people of the late Paleolithic Period, therefore communities of men followed the deer migrations throughout the seasons. The closeness of the campsites from the Mesolithic Period (mid-8th-5th millennium B.C.) to the water bodies and the nature of the items found at them shows that the main livelihood of the people was hunting, fishing and gathering. The first settling of people in Lithuania is presumably evidenced by the proliferation of items from the Swiderian culture. The Neolithic Period (4th-2nd millennium B.C.) brought changes to the way people lived. In addition to the old trades, new occupations – agriculture and animal husbandry – appeared. Some of the old camps were abandoned as people moved to more agriculture-friendly locations. People learned how to hone, drill and saw through stone. As a result, stone items from this era are more variegated, sophisticated, intricately shaped and fit for work. The first earthenware started being produced. Making earthenware and using fire to harden it was a significant technological advancement. Very few items and settlements from the Bronze Age (1st millennium B.C.) have been found on the park’s territory. Iron Age (5th century B.C. – 13th century) settlements include the castle mounds of Merkine and Liskiava. Some barrows have been discovered in the neighboring villages Vilkiautinis, Papiskes, Ricieliai (Degesiai), Gudakiemis, Burokaraistis.
Ever since the Stone Age, settlements have been clustering near three rivers – Ula, Gruda and Skroblus – that dissect Dainava Forest. Later, unfavorable agricultural conditions drove people away, but in the period straddling the 16th and the 17th centuries, when a large-scale forest reclamation and colonization began, the dwellers came back. The first product of this phenomenon was village Marcinkonys, established in the very heart of the great woods. This village should be seen as one of the old ones.
Villages at the DNP (Dzukija National Park) took shape under the influence of a variety of historical, social and economical factors, and the majority of them have their unique structure and architecture as a result. Nearly every village suffered from the rampage of the Russian troops during the 1655-1661 war. During the Northern War (1700-1721), Lithuania was ravaged by Russians and Swedes alike. When the war was over, the country entered into a spell of relative peace, the economy recovered and the population started growing. Large forests were being cut down, and new villages – Zervynos, Lynezeris, Krokslys, etc – were established at the logging sites.
The origins, development and valuable properties of villages and homesteads differ from one place to anotherthey have been affected by both natural conditions and historical events. A large part of the population of the forest villages was governed by national estates (or royal courts), and had to pay a tribute in kind (such as honey, hides etc.), or otherwise perform certain duties pertaining to care of the forest and its animals. This kind of environment created perfect conditions for certain forms of communal life to exist and even to survive to this day to a certain extent.
There are six protected ethno-architectural villages on the DNP’s territoryDubininkas, Kasetos, Lynezeris, Musteika, Rudnia (Rudnele), Zervynos.


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